Took down the drop ceiling to paint it black and am installing new recessed lighting and cleaning up/ fixing the terrible wiring job i discovered after removing the ceiling. My question, along some of the painted cinder block walls there will be outlets, can my conduit stop once at the ceiling or should i just run all junction boxes/lights/outlets in conduit ?
The service panel
First, that tiny 16-space panel is already super-full, and way to small for any civilized sort of house. As you refinish that basement, provision space for either
- Fitting a subpanel directly beneath it (or anywhere else in the house that is convenient). I recommend a 30-space/30-60 "circuit" so you finish with 44 spaces (30+16-2). A main-lug subpanel is fine.
- Replacing the main panel with a 40-space, however this is intrusive and/or expensive.
The 30-40 space new panel will certainly have a higher amp bus rating than your current service; that is desirable, it's like fitting VR tires (130mph) on your car instead of R tires (85 mph) even though you don't exceed 85. If you replace the main panel the new main breaker will surely be 225A, change it to whatever size the electric company tells you to.
I boggle at what is going on with the wood framing around the panel. It looks like the framing is proud of the panel and giving it side clearance, with cables running along the sides of the panel. That's fine, but more room should be given so you aren't bunching >4 cables together, and so you can practically use the plentiful side knockouts on the panel.
Conduit vs. wire guard
There are two ways to use conduit:
- as a random piece of metal to guard/protect wires run in a cable wiring method, this involves monkey-wrestling balky cable down the pipe.
- as the conduit wiring method, wherein you are entitled to use individual wires (and even stranded wire, which is wonderful to work with, though tricky to terminate at a non-screw-to-clamp outlet or switch)
You can transition between the cable wiring method and conduit wiring method at any junction box. That's important because given the framing around that service panel, it may be challenging to get conduit all the way to it.
Wire needs to be protected from damage where it is exposed, and when it's up between the joists it's not considered to be exposed, but running along the underside of them it is, as it could be damaged, so you'd need conduit there too. I'm not sure if a drop ceiling would be considered as offering protection.
It looks a lot neater if you drill holes through the joists (in the middle) for runs that go across the them, and then staple the wire along the side of the joist to go in the other direction. If you stop the conduit at the top of the wall, you need a bushing or wire clamps where the wire exits to prevent it running across the sharp edge of the conduit.
You might as well do the entire job in conduit if you're going from the outlets to the ceiling in conduit. It will give you some flexibility in adding circuits in the future. Have you used conduit before?